No need for booster shots, some experts say: COVID updates

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COVID-19 vaccine booster shots may be available to all fully vaccinated Americans in a week, but an expert review by international scientists – including some at the World Health Organization and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration – says we may not need them.

The review, published Monday in The Lancet, summarizes scientific evidence from randomized controlled trials and observational studies that appeared in both peer-reviewed journals and pre-print servers. The consistent finding was that vaccines remain highly effective against severe disease, including from the delta variant and other main variants.

“The currently available studies do not provide credible evidence of substantially declining protection against severe disease, which is the primary goal of vaccination,” said lead author Dr. Ana-Maria Henao-Restrepo, medical officer for vaccine research at WHO.

WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said last week that rich countries with large supplies of vaccines should refrain from offering booster shots through the end of the year and make the doses available for poorer countries.

Originally, President Joe Biden said a third shot booster dose for people with healthy immune systems would be offered beginning Sept. 20 but walked that back slightly over concerns the announcement got ahead of recommendations from the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advisory committees. Who will be eligible and when won’t be decided until two key scientific advisory committees meet in coming days.

Adrianna Rodriguez

Also in the news:

►Alaska state Sen. Lora Reinbold has asked to be excused from legislative sessions until next year, saying she has no way to fly to Juneau after she was barred from Alaska Airlines for violating mask policies, according to the Anchorage Daily News.

►Hospitals in Iowa are among the latest to limit elective procedures to deal with COVID-19. UnityPoint Health-St. Luke’s Hospital and Mercy Medical Center told The Cedar Rapids Gazette they are preserving capacity.

►Florida accounted for 1 of every 26 deaths reported in the world in the week ending Friday, Johns Hopkins University data shows. Florida had 2,448 deaths, 21.4% of the 11,413 U.S. deaths and 3.9% of the 62,559 global deaths.

📈Today’s numbers: The U.S. has recorded nearly 41 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and nearly 660,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Global totals: More than 224 million cases and 4.6 million deaths. More than 178 million Americans – 53.8% of the population – have been fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.

📘What we’re reading: President Joe Biden initiated a nationwide vaccine mandate last week, ordering employers with 100 or more workers to be inoculated or enforce weekly COVID-19 testing. But what are the consequences for someone who doesn’t comply? Is a failure to meet the mandate the same as breaking the law? Read more here. 

Keep refreshing this page for the latest news. Want more? Sign up for USA TODAY’s Coronavirus Watch newsletter to receive updates directly to your inbox and join our Facebook group.

Veronica Wolski, anti-vaccine activist, dies of COVID

Veronica Wolski, 64, a vocal foe of COVID vaccines and masks, died Monday, lawyer Lin Wood announced. In recent days Wood had promoted a campaign to pressure a Chicago hospital to treat Wolski with ivermectin. The drug, primarily a parasite medicine used on horses and cattle, is occasionally prescribed for humans for parasitic worms, skin conditions and head lice, according to the Food and Drug Administration. The FDA has not authorized ivermectin for preventing or treating COVID-19 in humans or animals.

“It is our responsibility to ensure that these medical murders stop NOW and the perpetrators be brought to justice,” Wood said on the social media site Telegram

New York City public schools return to in-person learning

New York City public schools welcomed back students for in-person learning Monday, re-opening schools fully for the first time in more than a year because of the coronavirus pandemic. Schools don’t plan on offering remote options in hopes of getting students back in classrooms, despite the delta variant’s spread across the country and increases in the number of children infected and hospitalized.

New York City will require students and faculty to wear masks. The city mandated employees to get at least their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by Sept. 27.

The return to normal for students in New York City comes as areas around the country wrestled with new case surges and mandates that both were impacting health care. A hospital in rural New York said it was pausing its maternity services as employees quit instead of getting the COVID-19 vaccine.

Booster shots a week away – but who will get them?

In just a week, COVID-19 vaccine boosters could begin to be available to all fully vaccinated Americans. But exactly who will be eligible and when won’t be decided until two key scientific advisory committees meet days before the Biden administration’s Sept. 20 start date.

That leaves little reaction time for health care system administrators like Dr. Tammy Lundstrom, chief medical officer for Michigan-based Trinity Health, which operates 92 hospitals and 120 continuing care facilities in 22 states.

“We have our data team poised, ready to hit the button to help us identify all our patients who are ready for a booster,” Lundstrom said. “We’re anxiously waiting for guidance, as is everybody.”

Elizabeth Weise

‘Long-haulers’ wait for help after months of struggling with symptoms

As many as 12 million Americans have taken months to recover from the coronavirus or are still struggling with symptoms. These “long-haulers” suffer from what’s called Post-Acute Sequelae of SARS-CoV-2 infection, better known simply as long COVID. They’re all waiting for help and for a better understanding of just what is making them so miserable. Dr. Stuart Katz, is principle investigator of NYU Langone’s Clinical Science Core, which has been tasked by the federal government with leading the long COVID research activities of clinical sites around the country.

“I do very much understand the feeling where your body is feeling a bit out of control and none of the doctors know why,” Katz said. Read more here.

Karen Weintraub

New York hospital won’t deliver babies after employees quit instead of getting vaccine

A hospital in rural New York will not be delivering babies after employees quit instead of getting the COVID-19 vaccine. Six employees at the Lewis County Health System have resigned and seven more are unwilling to get vaccinated, meaning Lewis County General Hospital will stop delivering babies for the time being, according to reports.

“We are unable to safely staff the service after Sept. 24,” Lewis County Health System CEO Gerald R. Cayer said at a news conference.

The move appears to be temporary. During the pause in maternity services, Cayer said the health system will focus on recruiting nurses to get baby deliveries back up and running.

Former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo passed a mandate Aug. 16 to ensure that all health care workers in New York be vaccinated. More specifically, hospitals and long-term care facility employees need to get their first dose of the vaccine by Sep. 27.

Biden’s testing plan calls for discounted COVID-19 tests

Consumers could soon get discounted coronavirus tests at Amazon, Kroger and Walmart as part of President Joe Biden’s plan to significantly increase testing.

The Biden administration said those three major retailers over the next three months will sell rapid, over-the-counter tests “at cost,” a discount of up to 35% from retail prices.

Biden’s strategy calls for spending nearly $2 billion to procure 280 million rapid tests for long-term care facilities, community testing sites, homeless shelters, prisons and other vulnerable populations. Another 25 million free at-home rapid tests would be sent to community health centers and food banks.

Companies say federal support to expand testing options is needed as the delta variant drives demand higher and manufacturers scramble to keep pace.

“There is a big shortage in the market right now across the board,” said Ron Gutman, co-CEO of Intrivo, a testing manufacturer.  “We have a lot more demand than we’ve ever seen before.”

– Ken Alltucker, USA TODAY 

What might increase vaccine willingness? Study may yield answers.

As the United States battles COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy amid a surge in cases fueled by the delta variant, a new study co-authored by a New Mexico State University researcher examines how COVID-19 infections in social circles may influence vaccine willingness.

In the study, Jagdish Khubchandani, public health sciences professor at NMSU, and a team of researchers conducted a national assessment of COVID-19 vaccine willingness among American adults based on COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations and deaths within their friend and family groups.

“In this study, and in our prior studies, we have extensively studied COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy, and some factors repeatedly emerge as predictors of vaccine hesitancy,” said Khubchandani, who has conducted multiple studies on COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy since late 2020. “Education, race and political ideology are the major factors, and we need more efforts to reach sections of our society that remain hesitant about the vaccines.”

Researchers found the rates of vaccine hesitancy differed significantly based on whether participants in the study had a close friend or family member who was affected with COVID-19. Read more here.

– Carlos Andres López, Las Cruces News

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